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Shohei Ohtani has an outfielder's glove, but don't expect him in the field anytime soon

Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani walks around the second day of spring training in Phoenix on Feb. 15, 2024.

Shohei Ohtani won’t take the mound as a pitcher this season, not after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery last September.

That doesn’t mean, however, he came to his first Dodgers spring training empty-handed … or empty-gloved.

After making his Cactus League debut with the Dodgers on Tuesday afternoon, Ohtani told Japanese reporters that he does have an outfielder’s glove with him in camp, just in case the need arises to play the position at some point this coming season.

“Something like that could happen,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “I think it’s important to be ready.”

Read more: Fifty at-bats: Shohei Ohtani sets his spring training goal with an eye toward opening day

But don't expect to see the two-time MVP trotting to the outfield anytime soon.

Ohtani has offered to the Dodgers to play the outfield if needed this season, a person with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly said. But the team currently has no plans to use him on defense — especially not while he continues to rehabilitate an elbow injury that has limited his ability to throw this spring.

“I don’t see that happening,” manager Dave Roberts said when asked about potentially using Ohtani in the outfield. “We’ve constructed our roster with the fact that we have plenty of outfield depth, and to have him be our [designated hitter]. Until I hear otherwise, the only focus for me is having him DH.”

Ohtani has never played outfield regularly in the majors, and only did so sparingly in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league earlier in his career.

His seven MLB outfield appearances all came in 2021 with the Angels, before the league adopted a rule that allowed Ohtani to remain in games as a hitter even after he departed as a pitcher. That year, he spent 8⅓ innings in the field. And not once did he have a legitimate chance to catch a ball.

Despite that, some evaluators around the sport have long believed in Ohtani’s ability to be a plus outfielder defensively, noting his speed, athleticism and throwing strength as obvious fits at the position.

The Dodgers haven’t completely closed the door on the possibility this season, either, according to people with knowledge of the team’s thinking who were granted anonymity. In time, they could always reassess the idea depending on Ohtani’s health and their roster needs.

“I think it’s great [that he is open to it],” Roberts said. “Like I said, I don’t know how that’s gonna play out. But for him to have his mind on potentially doing that, that only makes the Dodgers better. If his thought is to get healthy and help the Dodgers win baseball games, I’m all for it.”

For now, however, at this early stage of both the season and Ohtani’s elbow rehab, the team “isn’t even thinking about” using him in the outfield, one source said.

“He’s in the process of rehabbing his elbow,” Roberts echoed. “Playing the field, let alone pitching, that’s a ways off.”

Buehler feeling good after live BP

After facing batters for the first time this spring Tuesday afternoon, Walker Buehler said Wednesday he was encouraged by how he felt on the mound and how he is progressing this spring.

The Dodgers already have ruled out Buehler — who is in the final stages of returning from Tommy John surgery — from being available for the start of the season.

The right-hander mostly likely will begin his season in late April or May, in part to manage his innings total after missing all of last year.

Before he can get there, though, Buehler needs to complete other steps like Tuesday’s live batting practice.

Read more: ‘Plenty of time.’ Why the Dodgers aren’t rushing Walker Buehler’s comeback

"For me it's more just the body, and getting that kind of 'pop' back in the body,” Buehler said. “It's kind of hard to explain. But you go through rehab, and you're trying to protect the arm for forever and make sure it doesn't hurt, and then it feels good so you throw with all arm. So now I'm trying to kind of get them to work together. So yesterday was definitely kind of a step forward in terms of that.”

In his 28-pitch session, Buehler said his fastball was averaging 94 to 95 mph (close to his preinjury velocity) and felt he was more in sync by the end.

He also said he probably will need three or four more sessions before being able to get into a game — setting the Freeway Series late next month against the Angels as a possible target for that.

“I’ve seen a lot lately; everything that's been written about me is that it's not going well,” Buehler said, disputing some online discourse from fans worried he's behind schedule. “I don't think that's true. There's just boxes I gotta check. I feel good about it."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.